Tuesday, February 8, 2011

????? Profit?

I love Worcester, and I've lived here most of my life, but sometimes it takes on the eerie feeling of living in an Internet meme. Since I'm newly unemployed, I now take the commuter rail out of Worcester's gorgeous Union Station rather than the Westborough stop, because I don't have to go from class to work. This means parking in the Union Station parking garage.

Let's start with the basic issue. Parking at Westborough costs me $4 a day and they have this magical thing called Parkmobile, which allows you to pay your parking from your mobile phone or computer. This is good if you make a habit of catching the train by mere seconds or if you're going to be parked for several days. On the other hand, it costs $8.75 per day to park at Union Station or, somehow, $22.50 to park overnight. I'm not averse to a convenience charge for parking in a garage, but DOUBLING the cost of parking seems a bit much. That said, a lost ticket costs $14.95, so I feel like I'm going to be "losing" a lot of tickets this semester.

This seems to be part of Worcester's Big City Complex, wherein they know they could be like a Boston or a Providence, but aren't quite sure how to get there and thus adopt the most irritating parts of the big city experience, like overpricing everything. Thus the meme in which we Worcesterians reside goes something like this:

1. Remind selves we're second biggest city in New England.
2. Decide to be "more cosmopolitan."
3. ??????
4. Profit

The sad thing about this is that Worcester is a very cool place to il e and visit, with lots of music and art galleries and great restaurants and neat stuff to do, but I feel like the city's movers and shakers are so busy being all "we should like, get people to come here and stuff" that they can't get out of their own way, and instead of marketing the city better, they adopt a weird If You Charge Three Times The Normal Rate, They Will Come approach, which is bizarre and does not work at all because as it turns out, people don't like the parts of cities that involve the violent and unsettling emptying of one's wallet before even getting to the fun.

This is all before we get to the biggest problem of all, that being the outstanding incompetence of REPUBLIC PARKING, the company that operates the city garages. I'll admit that I have never given much thought to the difficulty level of operating a parking garage, but it seems like a reasonably simple enterprise - let people in, take money at some point, let people back out. Apparently there is some kind of nuance I am missing here, because going by the behavior of said parking garage operators, it is VERY hard and requires a phenomenal amount of intellect and wisdom. I have been stuck in the garage. My friends have been stuck in the garage. I have had to hunt people down at 11:30p on a Saturday night because I parked in the Major Taylor Garage for a hockey game and then - shockingly - went out for a beer afterwards. I have assaulted one of the garages. I have been met at the gate by someone who needed assistance making change for a $10 bill. I've seen people drive through the barriers because they could not rouse anyone from whatever Rip van Winkelian sleep they were in while they were supposed to be, you know, letting people out of the garage. Using the REPUBLIC owned garages is almost always an ordeal, because they are terrible.

All of this brings me back to the ????? meme. $22.50 is not, in the grand scheme of things, a ton of money for parking - I've certainly paid more in Boston, DC, New York, etc., but it IS a lot of money to pay for abject incompetence, and it IS a lot of money to pay when you're trying to convince people to come and visit your city and prove it has got just as much to offer as other major cities. The city is still paying off the Union Station garage, and I get that, but I hope they consider dropping prices when they are able, and booting Republic as soon as possible. Overpriced, incompetent and aggravating is no way to go through life, son.

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